I love hanging out with my mum. Whether we go shopping, eat out, grab coffee and sweets, she'll almost always be available if I want to go do something on a spur. Although she does begrudge my shopping habits. Too much, too often, and what not. She does exactly what a mother should, encourage you to do everything, but rein you in at the appropriate moments. With a caring touch. Like when I buy too many shoes. Although is there such a thing as too many?
So for her birthday, I wanted to take her somewhere quite nice. Originally tossing up some degustation options in the city, she decided that she wanted to go to Anada instead.
Easily done enough.
So we dressed up, I think mum changed her shoes at least three times, prayed our brand new little doggie would be fine on his own at home (upon returning home we discovered he scratched up the laundry door and broke the baby guard gate…), and headed out to the ever hip suburb of Fitzroy.
Anada is small, neat and classy, with the staple brick wall that most restaurants and cafes seem to have these days, to add that touch of 'uncompleted cool'.
A glass of prosecco for me and a glass of wine for mum.
With all the options on the menu, we ended up going with the first of the tasting menus, which would give us nine tapas and raciones over four courses. I've made the mistake of assuming the menu is available online, but on closer inspection, I don't believe it's a totally updated menu…so apologies for a bit of vagueness and if I've labelled anything that it's not…!
I appreciate bread that's served with olive oil so much more these days, after visiting Barcelona…and well Europe! Even our hosts in France were daintily dipping their bread in olive oil and shaking a bit of salt over it while we were in Nice!
Some Jamon, I think this was the Acorn fed Jamon Iberico, but don't quote me on it! Shaved impossibly thin, bare slivers, I enjoyed the texture, but didn't get quite as much flavour from it as I was hoping for. This was mum's observation as well.
Now, I don't quite recall what this was. Although it is pretty. I recall there being a bit of tartness, not the lemon puckering sort of tart, but just a hint of that.
Mother dear, is not a fan of offal. However, I have taken to my dad's love of it and insisted on top of our tasting menu, that I order one crumbed lambs brain for myself. Maybe participating in the zombie crawl last year is left a significant imprint on me…brains…more…!
I don't have much experience with brains, or what to expect from them, but I didn't find Anada's offering too bad. I love how brains look when you cut them in half, they still hold their cloud-like shape…which just baffles me.
Next up, we were served a croquette each, along with an absolutely beautifully presented potato and leek soup, with smoked labneh and black salt. Doesn't the glass, rimmed in gold, take you away to some far off dessert land, Agrabah? Anyone?
My family's love of croquettes also stemmed from our last trip to Barcelona, where we had some of the best croquettes we've ever had. Our complaint usually when we go out to tapas places in Melbourne, is that the croquettes aren't absolutely piping hot, which was the case at Anada as well. Warm, but not steaming-need-to-blow-to-cool-down-before-it-can-touch-my-tongue hot! Lovely and tasty otherwise though, crisp outside, creamy inside.
The soup might have been my mum and my favourite thing that night, it was creamy, aromatic and full of flavour, but refreshing at the same time. We were digging with our spoons to get every last bit out! If nothing else, I would be more than happy to come back for a much bigger serving!
And onto a little more protein! Charcoal grilled sardines, wrapped in vine leaves with pistachio and orange blossom sauce was up next. Not the sexiest looking things around, but I loved the pistachio, although not so crazy about the addition of orange blossom. Good but not 'wow' for me.
Bring on the pig! Otway Rangers pork belly with fennel seed and smoky aubergine. I was quite surprised at the portion size, as they appeared fairly formidable after so much food already! I feel I've been struggling to really enjoy eating pork belly when I go out, call me crazy, and I swear it's not because of the hype that some people are getting narky about these days. I had the same experience at Da Noi, where after a couple of courses, we were served pork belly, and it just ends up being so rich and filling, it can be a little difficult to stomach!
Mum noted the belly meat wasn't really holding together and a bit stringy, and found the fat a little mushy. This resulted in making the pork belly feel even heavier in the stomach! The skin was also a bit deceiving, although it looked as it would emit that entirely satisfying crunch when you bit into it, it did not. Instead, it had that slightly toughened texture, from not being served straight away and sitting around for a little bit. So a tad chewy. Maybe if it had come to us straight after it had been prepared it would have kept more texture? Not the highlight of our meal, unfortunately!
To finish off, we had the slow roasted beef cheeks in Olorosa with fava bean puree. I love beef cheek. I love eating cheeks of most any animal actually (although I have yet to try a pig's cheek, which I've been told is amazing!), and it's good to see the beef cheek be more prominent on restaurant menus. It is a lovely, tender, tender piece of meat and it wasn't any different here at Anada. In a rich, goopy sauce (which is a good thing), the beef cheek just fell apart and melted in the mouth.
WIth the beef cheek we got this salad. I don't remember what it was. But I didn't really like it, it was kinda peppery? Whatever it was flavoured with was a bit too strong for me.
Upon finishing our tasting menu, I pondered how on earth people could go for the premium tasting menu with 12 tapas and raciones and dessert! I was quite ready to roll on home, especially since we finished on such a heavy note! Whilst not everything may have hit an amazing note for me, and I felt the flavours tended to be on the heavier side, I did enjoy the experience, the staff were friendly enough, the space was cosy and of course, my company was good. However, with Melbourne's many tapas offerings, with many I am still yet to try, it may be a while yet before I revisit Anada.
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